Stop ticking the box for workplace training

Companies spent approximately $359 billion on training globally in 2016.   With the Covid pandemic of 2020, no doubt there would have been a significant increase in this spend.

How much of this training actually contributed to improved performance, skills or knowledge?   How much of this training was “training for training’s sake” or what we refer to as “tick the box” training?   Unfortunately, there’s plenty of it around, particularly in the compliance and investigations space.  Code of Conduct, Ethics, investigations fundamentals and workplace health and safety are typically the main offenders.

Sometimes there is a flurry of training and development spending close to the end of the financial year.  One wonders whether this knee-jerk reaction to staff development is effective because of the timing and content.   “Buying an off-the-shelf online course may seem like a good idea, but do you know what you’re really getting?” asks Gregory Lamey, CEO of the Professional Investigators College of Australasia (PICA).

“If organisational training is focused on the least cost, easiest method, then one would have to question the point of it,” Lamey says.  “It’s very easy for an employee to park in front of a computer and flick through screens quickly, without taking much in.”

That’s not to say there isn’t a place for online courses, particularly those relevant to the workers role.  “But it must be up-to-date and have immediate workplace application,” Lamey emphasises.

It’s a similar story for mandatory annual refresher, face-to-face training within organisations. Code of Conduct is a good example. Flipping through a series of PowerPoints without any workplace analysis and practice has limited relevance.  The learning needs to be applied to be effective.  And it needs to be contextualised.

“Some soft skill training can be general in nature but should still be relevant,” says Lamey. “It’s not that difficult to speak with the leaders of an organisation and find out where the problems/issue are.” At least then the training can focus on the areas most needed.

And all training should have a practical component, whether that’s a knowledge test or a practical activity at the least.  That’s because people tend to forget what they’ve learnt. German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus called it the “Forgetting Curve.”  He found that if new information isn’t applied, 75 percent of it is forgotten after just six days.

Steve Glaveski, CEO and co-founder of Collective Campus, outlines a number of effective strategies to negate “tick the box” training.  Like applying the training to real-world situations, leveraging guided learning, personalizing content, providing support, activating peer learning and offering micro courses.

Gregory Lamey agrees. “Training must reflect a problem, issue or address a deficiency,” he says. “Or at the very least provide a development pathway that helps employees do their job better.”

Micro-courses are a good example.  Short, sharp instruction on a specific topic can be far more beneficial that a long-winded certificate level course with a lot of irrelevant content. Glaveski calls it “lean learning.” It ensures that employees not only learn the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons, but also that they retain what they learn.

Good compliance and investigation professionals acknowledge that ongoing development is vital to their profession.  Matters relevant to the industry, like interviewing and gathering evidence, are changing all the time with research and it’s in the best interests of any investigative professional to know what the best practice is, and be able to apply it.

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